Chalk military badges on Fovant Down


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Chalk military badges on Fovant Down
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 13-Nov-2019 at 22:32:26.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SU 01610 28304

Reasons for Designation

Constructed by either stripping the turf to expose the bedrock beneath, or by cutting bedding trenches and packing them with chalk rubble, hill figures are an extremely rare phenomenon nationally with only 40 or so identified, most of which are to be found on the chalk downs of southern England. Archaeological opinion is divided as to the date of the earliest examples, some of which may have their origins in the late prehistoric or Romano-British period. However, most appear to belong to the post-medieval period, of which those from the 20th century are by far the most numerous with 26 examples recorded nationally. With the exception of one figure cut as an advertisement, the remainder of 20th century hill figures appear to have been cut for commemorative purposes, with a significant proportion dating to World War I and intended to record the presence of military units in specific localities. The 19 badges and motifs either visible today as surface features or surviving as buried deposits on Fovant, Compton and Sutton Downs represent by far the largest and most complete group of hill figures in England. They are prominent features in the landscape and along with the military graves in nearby churchyards are a visible record of the importance of the area during World War I. Their significance is further enhanced by their association with a number of regiments or units which were either subsequently disbanded, or whose members left Fovant to fight in some of the most bloody battles of World War I.


The monument includes a series of chalk badges cut into the northern slopes of Fovant Down overlooking the Shaftesbury to Salisbury road and the village of Fovant. The badges, nine of which are readily visible today, were begun by troops stationed in and around Fovant during World War I. They were constructed by excavating a series of shallow bedding trenches into which clean chalk rubble was inserted and compressed into place. The first badge believed to have been cut was that of the London Rifle Brigade in 1916, the 5th Battalion of which is known to have been undergoing training at Fovant between January and May of that year. The badges of the 6th City of London Battalion, the London Regiment, colloquially known as the `Cast-iron Sixth' and the 8th City of London Battalion, the London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) were also cut around this time. In addition, documentary sources also suggest that the badges of the 9th County of London Battalion, the London Regiment (Queen Victoria's Rifles) and the Army Service Corps may also have been cut, although neither are now visible. Initially present during August 1916 and March 1917, soldiers belonging to the Australian Imperial Force, Australia's expeditionary force, took over many of the camps around Fovant from October 1917 until after the Armistice, when the camps were used as dispersal centres. During their time at Fovant the Australians cut the so-called `Rising Sun', the General Service badge adopted by the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces from 1911 onwards. Two further badges known to have been cut on Fovant Down during World War I which are still visible today are those of the Devonshire Regiment and the Young Men's Christian Association. By the outbreak of World War II some badges had deteriorated almost to the point of invisibility and deliberate efforts were made during the war to camouflage those remaining to prevent them being used by the Luftwaffe for navigational purposes. Between 1948 and 1951 members of the Fovant Home Guard Old Comrades Association carried out a restoration of some of the badges, and to commemorate their own service cut the badges of the Wiltshire Regiment (which had been their parent body during World War II) and the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry. The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry badge was placed in an area formerly occupied by that of the Royal Army Medical Corps which documentary sources show was still visible up to World War II. During the period 1969 to 1970 the badge of the Royal Corps of Signals was cut to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Corp's foundation. Both the Royal Corps of Signals and the Wiltshire Regiment badges were cut in the vicinity of the area formerly occupied by a Kangaroo motif, again still visible prior to World War II. The same documentary source records that at least three further badges or motifs were visible on Fovant Down prior to World War II, including a drum with the word `drum', a vague shape with four initial letters, and a device which appeared originally to have included a circle. Of this latter group, only the circle is now apparent, and is situated immediately south west of the Devonshire Regiment badge. A further series of contemporary badges and motifs on Compton and Sutton Downs are the subject of separate schedulings. All fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
The Fovant Badges Society, (1984)
The Fovant Badges Society, (1984)
Gaylor, J, Military Badge Collecting, (1995), 73-74
Gaylor, J, Military Badge Collecting, (1995), 73
Marples, M, White Horses and other Hill Figures, (1949)
Marples, M, White Horses and other Hill Figures, (1949), 215


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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